For questions, please contact Professor Shankar Satyanath: email@example.com
This paper uses a historical setting to study when religion can be a barrier to the diffusion of knowledge and economic development, and through which mechanism. I focus on 19th-century Catholicism and analyze a crucial phase of modern economic growth, the Second Industrial Revolution (1870-1914) in France. In this period, technology became skill-intensive, leading to the introduction of technical education in primary schools. At the same time, the Catholic Church was promoting a particularly anti-scientific program and opposed the adoption of a technical curriculum. Using data collected from primary and secondary sources, I exploit preexisting variation in the intensity of Catholicism (i.e., religiosity) among French districts. I show that, despite a stable spatial distribution of religiosity over time, the more religious districts had lower economic development only during the Second Industrial Revolution, but not before. Schooling appears to be the key mechanism: more religious areas saw a slower introduction of the technical curriculum and instead a push for religious education. Religious education, in turn, was negatively associated with industrial development about 10-15 years later, when school-aged children would enter the labor market, and this negative relationship was more pronounced in skill-intensive industrial sectors.